Eq: Total Market
There have been a lot of stories, admittedly in this publication too, that have diminished the threat of the current trade war with China for the US economy. In a very direct sense, that may be true, but there is a lot of misunderstanding about the Chinese economy. Most people think that China is currently slowing because of the trade war with the US, but that is not really the case. The much bigger issue is that the country’s credit boom has run its course and the government is running out of options to boost growth. The credit boom was caused by the government needing to stimulate consumer spending in an effort to spur a domestic consumption economy, but credit has more or less reached it limits, and therefore, so has the economy.
FINSUM: If China has a big contraction/meltdown, it will ripple across all the countries who are part of its ecosystem, including all the EMs in the region, Africa, and then ultimately the big developed economies with which it is now inextricably linked.
Markets breathed a big sigh of relief at the G20 a few weeks ago when Trump announced that after meeting with Xi, China had agreed to return to the negotiating table with the US. This sent expectations surging that a trade deal between Washington and Beijing was within reach. However, all that hope seems to have been for nothing, as Trump and China are reportedly having trouble even making it back to the table because of being at odds over Huawei.
FINSUM: To be honest, we think the US and China are so at odds over trade that it is hard to imagine they will be able to resolve these tensions any time soon. Some are even saying this is going to be the Cold War 2.0.
Most investors spend their time worrying the Fed is going to cut the party short. Historically speaking, that has often been the role of the central bank—keeping things from getting too out of hand. However, Fed chief Powell does not appear to want to be the sober chaperone at the party this year, as the dovish positioning is heavy. Accordingly, there seems to be a strong chance of a melt up in stocks right now, or a big late stage rally. UBS, however, says the opposite, arguing that investors will stay hesitant because of high valuations and weak earnings.
FINSUM: We don’t think there will be a melt up. We just think the market will re-enter the post-Crisis goldilocks mode they were in, where rates are low and the economy is healthy, clearing the way for multiple expansion.
The bearish stream of warnings from Morgan Stanley continues unabated. The bank’s wealth management CIO has just made another big call for the firm, saying a correction is likely. Lisa Shallett of MS Wealth management says that the Fed is trying to fight the end of the cycle, and it will likely prove too hard to do. She believes that a recession and correction are highly likely in the next year and that stocks will drop by at least 10%. That said, she advises investors to buy further intro underperforming sectors.
FINSUM: Morgan Stanley says explicitly that they think the bond market’s call on the economy is more correct than stocks and that an economic hard landing is likely coming.
Second quarter earnings season is about to begin, and nobody has much expectation for good news. Analysts across the board expect earnings to shrink, brining back the first profit recession since 2016. Materials, technology, and consumer discretionary are set to get hit the hardest, but the majority of sectors are likely to see losses. Analysts estimate the average earnings decline for the S&P 500 will be 2.8%.
FINSUM: It will be interesting to se if this has any effect on stocks. Given it is so telegraphed, we don’t think there will be a big impact unless the losses are much steeper than expected.
There is a big new risk to stocks to worry about, says Goldman Sachs. Actually, it is a not a new risk, it is an old one that investors have not been thinking about. The risk? Pay. The bank says that rising pay pressure from workers could hurt companies at all levels and eat into margins. The labor market is incredibly tight, which puts upward pressure on pay and downward pressure on corporate margins. Wage growth is already at its highest rate since 2007, and companies may feel the sting. According to Goldman, “While S&P 500 profit margins are at historical highs, survey data indicates a record level of corporate concern regarding labor costs”.
FINSUM: Many analysts have been predicting an earnings recession and this is one of the factors that could exacerbate it.